- Plush soccer balls, by Ikea. Which is Swedish.
One of the many great things about the World Cup is the way in which it provokes indulgent and facile stereotypes of national character. The Germans are always described as “hard-working” and “organized” (implying they’re also a little dull), despite the fact that for the last two tournaments they’ve actually been a lot of fun to watch. The African teams are “joyous and fun,” the Eastern Europeans “workmanlike and tough,” the southern Europeans are “histrionic and full of flair” (as are their Latinate counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean), and the Dutch always, always fight with each other. In no other form of polite society is this kind of broad ethnic stereotyping so widely accepted. And I’m ok with that. Because I hate the Portuguese. All of them.
Anyway, another fun thing about the World Cup is when two nations meet that have a bit of a non-sporting history with each other. Examples that spring immediately to mind include England vs. Argentina in 1986 (just four years after the Falklands War), and, oh, USA vs. Iran in 1998 (a game, no doubt, which led to the whole “Axis of Evil” thing).
And so it is that this afternoon’s Group E tilt between Denmark and Japan, which will see the winner advance and the loser go home, is shaping up as an interesting contest between two world powers in… tasteful modernist design. As L Mag soccer/design correspondent Ben Sutton said last night, “Think of it as the artful whimsy of Muji vs. the warm elegance of Arne Jacobsen.” Put that way, I can only hope for a Japanese victory today. (But then, I think to myself, who would win if it was samurais vs. vikings? See, isn’t this fun?)